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Franco Corelli, Vol. 1: Belcanto & Verdi

Verdi / Bellini / Donizetti / Corelli
Release Date: 10/08/2013 
Label:  Preiser Records   Catalog #: 93488   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Giacomo MeyerbeerVincenzo BelliniGaetano DonizettiGiuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco CorelliLoretta di Lelio
Conductor:  Franco FerrarisArturo BasileAlfredo SimonettoUmberto Cattini
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



FRANCO CORELLI, VOL. 1: Belcanto & Verdi (1956–1962) Franco Corelli (ten); Loretta di Lelio (sop); Giangiacomo Guelfi (bar); various accompaniments PREISER 93488, mono (74:15)


Arias and songs by: MEYERBEER, BELLINI, DONIZETTI, VERDI


During the late 1940s and early 1950s Italy launched one of its periodic musical invasions of the world, with a bumper crop of young singers that had largely gone unnoticed abroad until that time. They quickly attracted Read more attention on well-circulated recordings made by Cetra and Decca, and they drew immense interest from the largest opera houses. Franco Corelli was actually a bit of late starter from that perspective. He first appeared at La Scala in 1954, though very soon after traveled abroad and took on many roles, both well-known and seldom heard. He offered a mid-range that carried easily through the largest of houses, and an impressive top with plenty of metal. So far, so good; this was standard with many Italian lirico-spinto tenors in the early-to-mid 20th century, when verismo and Verdi ruled, and explicit instructions in scores were often ignored. Audiences wanted excitement. Corelli was one of many tenors, mostly forgotten, who delivered a cultivated over-emotionalism in spades.


But Corelli stood out, as did a few others. Take his “Bianca al par” from the early 1960s on this Preiser release. There’s the way he phrases caressingly on “Ah, qual soave vision,” and the diminuendo in the line that follows. It can’t be said that the aria itself has the distinction several singers from previous generations brought to it, such as Caruso, de Lucia, or Lauri Volpi. There’s an almost-sob, an extra syllable or two, the voice simply sounds too tightly wound, and Corelli remains all too willing to jump at opportunities to go for maximum volume. But there are beauties here as well, including excellent enunciation and real variety in the vocal color. Just a few years before this recording was made, in 1958, Alfredo Kraus turned out a more distinguished and stylish version. But for visceral excitement, Corelli would be difficult to beat.


One finds that same thrill in “Questa o quella” and “La donna è mobile,” but Corelli stays perfectly in character as a Duke rather than portraying a Tenor Singing a Duke; neither lengthening nor endlessly swelling notes, as several very celebrated contemporaries of his were wont to do. The phrasing is distinguished, and he makes a finely satirical point by lightening the voice in passing for “i cent’occhi disfido” (defying Argo’s hundred eyes). The diminuendo on “d’accento” is sweet; more colors figure into the second verse; and again, there’s no tendency to overplay. Corelli wasn’t usually so scrupulous in live performance, but these recordings are classics of their kind.


There’s some shortening of phrases to gather volume in his sometimes gusty and over-weighted “Ah si, ben mio” from 1957, and the simple turns are aspirated; but his “Meco all’altar di Venere” from a year later has a nobility and strength that are surprising for the date. Modern tenors would certainly make more of a supple line out of this material, as well as decorating the da capo repeat; but Corelli doesn’t shout or over-indulge. From that same year comes a magnificent “Esultate,” though one has to wonder how scrupulously Corelli would have been in following Verdi’s explicit instructions throughout the rest of this most testing of operas for tenors. (He did mention in a late interview wishing he’d performed Otello .)


There are other performances here that don’t impress: an insensitive “Spirto gentil,” for example, and a “Celeste Aida” that ignores the morendo at the conclusion, while offering little of interest elsewhere. But there’s certainly enough that’s good on this release to justify it as a first exposure to someone interested in one of the leading Italian spintos of his time.


Preiser accesses a variety of sources for these performances, and at least a few sound as though they derive from studio recordings not intended for commercial release. (RAI in those days compiled a huge collection of material like this, which was made available free to radio stations.) The sound in general is very good, with only one audible splice I could detect.


This is labeled as Volume One, so for Corelli fans, that means yet more is on the way. I have only one suggestion to offer for that follow-up: juxtapose two versions of at least one aria from early and late periods in the tenor’s career, because his ability to learn, to grow, was truly a rare one during that period among the Italian operatic contingent, and Corelli offered this. Perhaps it was due to his well-known insecurity, but he did seek to improve over time, becoming a better interpreter, and more adept at sculpting the musical line. Recommended.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1. Gli Ugonotti: Non lungi dalle torri... Bianca al par di neve by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Franco Ferraris
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1836; France 
Date of Recording: 1961/62 
Length: 5 Minutes 25 Secs. 
2. Norma: Meco all'altar di Venere... Me protegge by Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Arturo Basile
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1831; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1958 
Length: 6 Minutes 40 Secs. 
3. La Favorita: Favorita del re!... Spirto gentil by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Franco Ferraris
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1961/62 
Length: 4 Minutes 56 Secs. 
4. I lombardi: La mia letizia infondere by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Alfredo Simonetto
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1843; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1956 
Length: 2 Minutes 28 Secs. 
5. Rigoletto: Questa o quella by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Umberto Cattini
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1958 
Length: 2 Minutes 3 Secs. 
6. Rigoletto: La donna è mobile by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Alfredo Simonetto
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1956 
Length: 2 Minutes 38 Secs. 
7. Il trovatore: Deserto sulla terra by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Arturo Basile
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1957 
Length: 1 Minutes 44 Secs. 
8. Il Trovatore: Quale d'armi fragor... Ah si, ben mio... Di quella pira by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Loretta di Lelio (Voice), Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Arturo Basile
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1957 
Length: 8 Minutes 31 Secs. 
9. Ernani: Mercè diletti amici... Come rugiada al cespite by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Arturo Basile
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1957 
Length: 3 Minutes 50 Secs. 
10. Un Ballo in Maschera: Forse la soglia attinse... Ma se m'è forza perderti by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Alfredo Simonetto
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1956 
Length: 5 Minutes 12 Secs. 
11. La Forza del Destino: La vita è inferno... O tu che in seno by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Arturo Basile
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1956 
Length: 6 Minutes 31 Secs. 
12. La forza del destino: Solenne in quest' ora by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Arturo Basile
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862/1869; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1956 
Length: 4 Minutes 9 Secs. 
13. La Forza del Destino: Fratello... Le minaccie, i fieri accenti by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Arturo Basile
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1956 
Length: 8 Minutes 34 Secs. 
14. Simon Boccanegra: Sento avvampar nell' anima by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Umberto Cattini
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1958 
Length: 4 Minutes 2 Secs. 
15. Aida: Se quel guerrier io fossi... Celeste Aida by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Arturo Basile
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1957 
Length: 4 Minutes 50 Secs. 
16. Otello: Dio, fulgor della bufera... Esultate! by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Franco Corelli ()
Conductor:  Arturo Basile
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1957 
Length: 2 Minutes 32 Secs. 

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